This has been a difficult year for Sony with many of their recent products coming in for some justifiable criticism with regards to both performance and build quality. Their initial forays into 3D were less than impressive with excessive crosstalk, an ugly outboard transmitter and active shutter glasses that have very little tolerance for head movement. In addition, the backlight uniformity on their LED edge lit displays has often suffered from extreme unevenness which has marred the 2D performance. Finally there has been the appearance of the dreaded 'crease' which has caused concern among owners of Sony's flagship HX923 and even turned up in our recent review of Sony's 40NX723.
It appears that Sony has been spurred on by these criticisms and has raised their game of late, addressing some of these issues. Certainly when we reviewed the aforementioned 40NX723 we found that the transmitter was now built-in and the 3D performance was a big improvement on previous efforts. Sony has recently released the KDL-40HX723 which appears to offer impressive performance at a reasonable price point and in fact actually shares many of the features of their flagship HX923. Unlike the top-of-the-line model the 40HX723 doesn't include MotionFlow XR 800 but instead uses the XR 400 version, nor does it have the Intelligent Peak LED local dimming or include active shutter glasses, built-in WiFi or a Skype camera and microphone. The HX723 does however include many of the of the other attributes of the HX923 such as LED edge lighting, 3D capability, Internet TV and the X-Reality Pro Engine. The question is, in such a competitive market place, have Sony raised their game enough and does the HX723 deliver on its promise?
Styling and Connections
The chassis of the 40HX723 is 4cm deep, the rear is made of black plastic and the whole display rests on a black plastic and metal stand that compliments the TV itself. The stand can be swivelled 20 degrees to the left and right and can also be tilted by up to 6 degrees. To the right of the screen on the edge of the chassis there are basic controls for on/off, channel+/-, volume+/-, input and home. At the centre rear of the chassis is a hard wired power cable that is unfortunately only 1.5m which might be a little short for anyone wishing to wall mount the 40HX723.
Also at the rear are a reasonable number of connections, including three HDMI inputs, one of which includes an Audio Return Channel. In addition to the three HDMI inputs there is also a rearward facing SCART socket, an optical digital out, an aerial socket, component video in, stereo analogue in and a LAN connector. The 40HX723 doesn't have built-in WiFi so if you don't want to use a LAN cable you will need to buy a USB WiFi adaptor (UWA-BR100). Whilst some people might complain that rear facing inputs make the 40HX723 harder to wall mount, we prefer it to the current trend of having inputs at the edge which results in cables poking out the sides. At the side is a fourth HDMI connector, a VGA D-sub connector, two USB 2.0 sockets, a headphone socket and a CI (Common Interface) slot.
The provided remote control is the same design that Sony has been using for a couple of years and, as we have mentioned previously, we would like to see it revised. Whilst the buttons are sensibly laid out, the shape of the remote control makes it quite uncomfortable to hold and it has a cheap plastic feel to it. As with many other manufacturers Sony now provides an application that you can download to your smartphone or tablet that turns it into a remote control. This application is freely available and once installed it can be used to provide full control over the menu and basic functions, as well as provide a keyboard for use with the TV's internet functionality.
The 40HX723 doesn't come with any active shutter glasses included but at least Sony has now built the infra-red sync emitter for the glasses into the display itself. Sony provided a pair of their current design of active shutter glasses (TDG-BR100B) for the purposes of this review. These are the same style that Sony has been using all year and we are not big fans of them. In terms of their overall design they are attractive to look at, with wide enough sides to block out ambient light and large enough lenses to see the screen properly. They are also light and quite comfortable to wear, even over regular glasses, and they don't tint the image too much. There is a tiny button at the bottom that turns the glasses on but they turn themselves off once the emitter stops sending a sync signal. Unfortunately they also occasionally lose synch and they have almost no tolerance for tilting your head. If you tilt your head by even a tiny amount you lost the 3D effect and introduce crosstalk.
Menus and Set Up
Within the Picture menu there are the standard controls for Backlight, Brightness, Contrast, Colour and Hue, along with Sharpness, Noise Reduction and colour temp. Also within this menu you will find the MPEG Noise Reduction, Dot Noise Reduction, Reality Creation and Smooth Gradation controls. We never had any reason to use this multitude of noise reduction features and we used the middle setting for the Sharpness control which neither added unwanted ringing or softness. Finally, within this menu, there is the control for turning on and off the MotionFlow and the Film Mode option, more on these later.
There is a sub-menu called Advanced Settings where you will find controls for the Black Corrector, Advanced Adjustment Enhancer, Auto Light Emitter and Clear White. There is also a control for the LED Dynamic Control, Live Colour, Detail Enhancer, Edge Enhancer and Skin Naturaliser. Most of these so-called 'picture features' are actually detrimental to image quality and are best left off.
As we have mentioned in previous reviews, one of our major complaints about the Sony displays is the lack of any kind of CMS and we would like to see them address this. Most of their competitors include some kind of CMS, even on some of their entry level displays, and many also include 10 point white balance controls as well. The final menu screen relates to the 3D controls and allows users to manually turn the 3D on and off (3D Display), an adjustment for the dimensionality of the 2D to 3D conversion (Simulated 3D effect), adjust the parallax (3D Depth Adjustment) and control the amount of time the lenses of the glasses stay open (3D Glasses Brightness). The higher the setting on this control, the longer the glasses stay open and the more light that is let in but conversely the greater the incidence of crosstalk; this setting is best left at Auto.
Sony have added a limited Web Browser to the suite of Smart TV options but it doesn’t support embedded video. On the plus side, with the latest firmware installed, the Bravia range now caters to the owners of smartphones and tablets with an application for both Android and iPhone/iPad/iTouch that, as mentioned previously, proves a better alternative to the provided remote control for internet navigation.
The 40HX723 is Windows 7 certified and DLNA compliant and as such it worked quite nicely with PS3 Media Server although owners with large collections of MKV files shouldn’t get too excited as support is very limited. The 40HX723 was quite nifty in navigating through folder structures and is therefore enough to use as a digital photo album or for music streaming. The 40HX723 has two USB 2.0 connections, one of which can be used with an external hard drive to act as a one-tuner PVR or, alternatively, for the playback of media files; with the other USB connector existing solely for the purpose of playing media files.
Measured Results Out-of-the-BoxAs is always the case with our out-of-the-box measurements we start by finding which preset provides the most accurate starting point when compared to industry standards. The 40HX723 comes with quite a few presets but it should come as no surprise to discover that the Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 presets provided the most accurate results. There was very little difference between the two Cinema presets but one had a much higher Backlight setting and was thus much brighter, presumably to be used as a day setting in much the same way as THX and ISF recommend. We then made sure that all unnecessary 'special features' were turned off, selected a Colour Temperature of Warm2 and left the Gamma on the centre setting. We then adjusted the Brightness, Contrast and Backlight controls to suit our testing environment and started taking measurements.
As you can see from the chart above, the out-of-the-box greyscale performance of the 40HX723 is excellent and bordering on reference. Technically any DeltaEs (errors) below three are indistinguishable to the human eye and, as such, if all the errors are below that target the performance is reference. The 40HX723 has errors at or below three for all measurements except 90 and 100 IRE and even those two are only just above the target, which is an excellent result. The Gamma is also measuring exactly on our target of 2.2 with the exception of a small bump at 90IRE, so overall this is a very impressive greyscale performance. Given that the 40HX723 has a two point White Balance control and given that red, green and blue are all tracking in straight lines, we should be able to improve this still further.
As with the greyscale, the colour gamut is also very good out-of-the-box, with all the colours except cyan measuring overall errors of less than three, which once again is largely indistinguishable to the human eye. The luminance measurements are all very good which is important as this is what the eye is most sensitive to. The luminance of green is slightly under saturated which will offset a slight over saturation in the colour of green and the colour of red is slightly under-saturated. The overall error in cyan stems from an error in that colour's hue but overall the colour gamut is reasonably accurate and actual viewing material looked very natural. The 40HX723 lacks a Colour Management System (CMS) but hopefully some minor improvements can be made.
Calibrated ResultsFor these measurements we left the settings as before but used the White Balance control to adjust the greyscale performance and, in the absence of a CMS, used the Colour and Hue controls to tweak the colour gamut.
As you can see from the above graph, after making some minor adjustments using the White Balance control we were able to produce an absolutely reference greyscale performance from the 40HX723. The DeltaEs are now all less than one which is essentially perfect and the gamma is measuring exactly at our target of 2.2 with a small bump at 90IRE. Given the superb calibrated greyscale performance, not to mention the excellent out-of-the-box measurements it would seem churlish to complain about the lack of an ten point White Balance control, so we won't.
As you can see on the CIE Chart above, the colour of white is now measuring exactly on our target of D65, thanks to the reference greyscale. This removes any discolouration and thus improves the colour performance at the same time, resulting in a measurement that is pretty close to the industry standard of Rec.709. The overall DeltaEs are now all measuring at or below 2 which is excellent. Green is still slightly over saturated in terms of its colour but that is offset by a slight under saturation in luminance. Conversely red is slightly under saturated in terms of its colour and slightly over saturated in terms of its luminance. If the 40HX723 had a CMS then some of these small errors could be reduced further but it is unlikely that anyone would notice the difference and, in the case of the under saturated red, there is nothing that a CMS could do to correct that. In the end, even without a CMS, the colour performance of the 40HX723 is excellent and when watching real world material the colours always looked accurate and natural.
Video ProcessingSony has been using some excellent video processing software on its displays this year, so we expected good results from the 40HX723 and we weren't disappointed. As usual we started with our PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs and first of all we checked the SMPTE colour bar test which the 40HX723 easily passed, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The 40HX723 also scored well when it came to video deinterlacing with jaggies only appearing when the line was at an acute angle in the first test. In the second test the motion adaptive deinterlacing was also good with slight jaggies only appearing on the bottom bar of the three moving bars.
The 40HX723 performed well in the film detail test and correctly locked on to the image resulting in no aliasing, as long as you used the Auto1 setting. In the cadence tests the 40HX723 also correctly detected both the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format and the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. It is good to see that the Sony displays have no problems in this area since so many other manufacturers seem to get tripped up here. When we reviewed the 40NX723 we found problems with video text over film based material but the 40HX723 had no such problems displaying film material with both horizontal and vertical scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without any blurring or shredding.
The 40HX723 performed very well in all of the tests on the HQV and Spears & Munsil Blu-ray discs using high definition content. With the player set to 1080i the display correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests. Just make sure Auto Display Area is set to off in the Screen section of the Display menu to prevent any overscan. The 40HX723 also showed good scaling and filtering performance as well as good resolution enhancement. The 40HX723 also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on high definition film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems, even the tortuous wedge shaped test on the S&M disc. Again, using the S&M disc, we checked the headroom performance of the 40HX723 from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) and it was very good with absolutely no signs of clipping. In addition, the 40HX723 also correctly showed detail down to a video level 17 and reference black below that to video level 0.
The 40HX723 includes Sony's MotionFlow feature which is the latest version of their frame interpolation software and increases the refresh rate to improve motion handling and reduce blurring. Overall we found the motion handling on the 40HX723 to be quite good for a LCD display and didn't feel the need to engage the MotionFlow software. However in testing we found that of the four settings - Clear Plus, Clear, Standard and Smooth - it was best to not use the latter two because they produced noticeable artefacting and the dreaded 'soap opera' effect. The Clear and Clear Plus options were better because whilst they still use frame interpolation they don't result in the 'soap effect' but are still able to render the full 1080 lines from the FPD Benchmark Software disc's scrolling resolution test. We found that these two options worked well with fast paced sporting action but would still introduce artefacts from time to time and we would strongly recommend leaving MotionFlow off when watching film based material.
Gaming PerformanceThe 40HX723 comes with a Game mode that can be accessed using the Scene button on the remote control. This mode is optimised to reduce the input lag when the display is being used with game consoles, we therefore used this mode for these tests and made sure all the processing features were turned off. We measured the average input lag at 30ms which is reasonably good and should be sufficient for all but the most demanding gamers.
Energy ConsumptionThis is an area where LCD panels have a distinct advantage over the higher consuming plasmas and it is also an area where displays using LED lighting have an advantage over those that use CCFL lighting. The 40HX723 produced excellent results with an average energy consumption of 84W in its 2D calibrated mode at various luminance points and 96W in 3D mode.
Picture Quality - 2D
In fact, standard definition material also looked very good thanks to the excellent scaling and deinterlacing, with very little aliasing and the diagonal interpolation keeping jaggies to a minimum. Regardless of the content - UK DVDs, US DVDs or Freeview broadcasts - the images produced by the 40HX723 looked excellent thanks to the flawless cadence detection and it also had no problems with film based material. This is certainly good news if you watch a lot of standard definition TV or don't have an upscaling DVD player.
When it came to high definition content the 40HX723 performed equally as well, producing very detailed but natural images. Watching the Rugby World Cup in high definition was a real pleasure with vibrant and high resolution images that really popped off the screen. As previously mentioned the motion handling on the 40HX723 was very good and we never felt the need to engage MotionFlow, although that option is available to users. Switching to Blu-ray and the images were even more impressive with the 40HX723 pulling every last pixel of detail from the discs and handling the 24p playback flawlessly.
We were pleased to see that unlike on the 40NX723, there was no sign of the dreaded 'crease' on the 40HX723. It doesn't use an IPS panel so there is some loss of contrast and colour accuracy when you move off-axis but this is true of any LCD TV and we have seen far worse. Of course, whilst the use of an IPS panel would improve the off-axis performance it would adversely affect the black levels which would be a shame because the blacks on the 40HX723 were actually very good.
We were genuinely surprised at how good the native blacks looked, especially in a room with some ambient light, which tends to be the case in most living rooms. Of course having some neutral light in the room, ideally behind the display, is one of the easiest ways of making the black levels on your TV look better. It's essentially an optical illusion but it works and is one of the reasons why absolute black levels are not as important as some make out, unless you're watching TV in a completely black room.
As is increasingly becoming the trend now, the 40HX723 turns off all the LEDs when it is sent a black video signal, something we refer as 'global dimming'. This makes measuring a completely black screen pointless but using an ANSI checkerboard pattern we measured black at 0.08cd/m2 which is pretty good for a LCD display. There is a local dimming feature as well which Sony calls LED Dynamic Control but frankly it is very poor and best left off. The 40HX723 turned out to be quite bright as well, which is one of the reasons the images popped off the screen so much. In fact we measured one of the white squares on the ANSI checkerboard pattern at 175cd/m2 which gives an ANSI contrast ratio of 2,188:1, which is pretty good.
In fact we felt the only real area of weakness for the 40HX723 was its backlight uniformity which is hardly a surprise given that it uses edge LED lighting. The LED lights were clearly in the corners because on a dark screen you could see bright patches in each corner, resulting in a pin cushion effect. Uneven backlighting and patches of brightness are par for the course with TVs using LED edge lighting and are basically the price people pay for super slim displays. However, the patches of brightness weren't obvious on normal viewing material and even darker material looked good when watching during the day. It was only when watching dark material at night that the lighter patches became visible but in fairness it isn't the worst we've seen.
Picture Quality - 3D
There were no such problems with the 40HX723 and the display was able to correctly render the 3D resulting producing some very impressive images. The 40HX723 was able to correctly produce the 3D image whether it was in negative or positive parallax and the resulting experience was largely free from crosstalk. We did see some crosstalk occasionally, of course, but it was quite rare and certainly wouldn't be detrimental to your overall 3D experience. As mentioned in the previous section the 40HX8723 is also capable of producing a very bright image and this is always a positive when it comes to 3D where so much light output is lost through the glasses.
Watching a selection of 3D Blu-rays we were very impressed with the immersive nature of the picture produced by the 40HX723 and thanks to the reasonably accurate image, the overall brightness and the lack of crosstalk we never found ourselves being drawn out of the experience. The same was true of side-by-side 3D, such as last summer's Wimbledon finals, which were nicely dimensional and free of crosstalk. The only real issue related to the size of the screen, which was a bit small to fully immerse you in the 3D experience but that certainly isn't a criticism of the display's overall performance.
We checked the motion handling of the 40HX723 and found that it had no problems regardless of whether the frame rate of the content was 50Hz, 60Hz or 24p. However it should be noted that for the best results in 3D the MotionFlow function must be turned off because otherwise we found that it tended to introduce judder. When we reviewed the NX723 we discovered that it didn't pass the full 1080p resolution in 3D but we found no such problems with the 40HX723. In fact the only real complaint we had related to Sony's current 3D glasses because whilst they are good at not overly tinting 3D images, they have almost no tolerance to tilting your head. If you moved your head by even a couple of inches the 3D image would fall apart and crosstalk would be introduced and Sony really need to redesign their 3D glasses before they launch next year's models.
- Impressive out-of-the-box performance
- Excellent performance after calibration
- Good video processing
- Impressive black level
- Much improved 3D performance
- Extensive video on demand services
- Mobile application for TV control
- Attractive design
- Power consumption is excellent
- Uneven backlight uniformity
- Poor off-axis performance
- No Colour Management System
- 3D glasses still lose sync easily
- Expensive compared to the competition
Sony HX723 (KDL-40HX723) 3D LED LCD TV Review
Sony have clearly taken the criticism it received earlier in the year to heart and as a result they have raised their came considerably. There is no doubt that the company has been guilty of a degree of complacency and the 3D performance of their earlier displays was just not good enough. Thankfully that all seems to be a thing of the past and our experience of recent Sony products has revealed a significant improvement, the 40HX723 continues this trend delivering an excellent all-round performance and much improved 3D delivery.
Of course being a Sony TV the 40HX723 is well designed and attractive and whilst we aren't fans of the remote control, the menu system remains reasonably easy to use and responsive. There are a decent number of connections but if you're thinking of wall mounting the 40HX723 be aware that three of the HDMI inputs are rearward facing and the hard wired power cable is only 1.5 metres long. You will also need to buy active shutter 3D glasses, a WiFi USB adaptor and a Skype camera/microphone as accessories, if you want them, because none are included in the box.
As one would expect from a Sony TV, the 40HX723 comes with an impressive list of internet features and catch-up and VoD services. There is also a limited Web Browser which doesn’t support embedded video but on the plus side, there is an application for both Android and iPhone/iPad/iTouch that provides a better alternative to the provided remote control for internet navigation. The 40HX723 is Windows 7 certified and DLNA compliant and has two USB 2.0 connections, one of which can be used with an external hard drive to act as a one-tuner PVR or, alternatively, for the playback of media files; with the other USB connector existing solely for the purpose of playing media files.
The out-of-the-box greyscale was excellent and after calibration the 40HX723 was capable of a reference performance. The colour accuracy was also excellent and whilst the 40HX723 doesn't have a colour management system the colour gamut is already pretty close to industry standards. The video processing was also very good and the 40HX723 passed all of our usual tests, including deinterlacing, scaling and cadence detection.
As a result of the accurate greyscale and colour gamut, combined with the excellent video processing, the HX7232 produced a natural and very pleasant standard definition image that had plenty of impact. Things got even better with high definition content and the added resolution resulted a very detailed and wonderfully accurate image. Motion handling was also good, especially for an LCD and the 40HX723 rendered 24p material particularly well for a very film-like presentation.
The 3D performance of the 40HX723 was also very good and a big improvement on previous Sony 3D displays. The 3D was rendered very well with plenty of depth and a reasonably bright picture that gave the the image more impact. The 40HX723 also handled motion well and there were only occasional instances of crosstalk, resulting in a detailed 3D image that was free of artefacts. Whilst we found that the glasses didn't tint the image too much, they still have no tolerance to head movement and we would like Sony to address this as soon as possible.
The native black levels on the 40HX723 were quite impressive for an LCD, especially when there was some ambient light in the room, making the display a good choice for someone who watches a lot of TV during the day. At night the blacks aren't quite as impressive but they are still perfectly acceptable and some neutral light behind the screen could easily fix that. The off-axis performance wasn't great but that is a limitation of LCD technology and using IPS panel would impact on the blacks. The use of edge LED lighting does result in bright patches in the corners but these are really only visible on darker scenes when watching at night and the 40HX723 is certainly better than many other displays that we've seen. Thankfully unlike on the 40NX723, there was no sign of the dreaded 'crease' on the 40HX723.
The input lag is reasonably low at 30ms and whilst this might not be good enough for a hardcore gamer, the 40HX723 would certainly be a good choice for the more casual game player. The 40HX723 is also very thrifty when it comes to power consumption, so if you're concerned about your carbon footprint this could be the display for you.
Sony's recent good form continues and the KDL-40HX723 holds its own in a competitive market place, even if it is a bit pricey. The out-of-the-box performance is excellent and the 3D performance is much improved and whilst no TV is perfect, any issues we had were minor. Overall the 40HX723 is a fantastic all-round performer and we have no reservation in awarding a 'Recommended' badge.
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.